Yankees set to have ascending shortstop lead off tonight

mlb: new york yankees at toronto blue jays, anthony volpe
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Boone hinted at Anthony Volpe potentially taking the leadoff spot for the Yankees yesterday, remarking that in 10 years we would look up and see him as a consistent presence there. It seems that by 10 years, he meant 24 hours, as he’s penciled in Volpe as their leadoff hitter. Gleyber Torres has gotten off to a slow start, and the idea likely is that his approach works better in a lower spot where he can drive in runners and utilize his all-around approach to do damage and lengthen the order.

This isn’t his first time as a leadoff hitter, as Anthony Volpe hit atop the Yankee lineup for a little last season, although he struggled with a .622 OPS and 74 wRC+. Off to a scorching hot start, however, the hope is that this second go-around will be a permanent one.

Anthony Volpe Getting His Shot to Be the Yankees’ Leadoff Hitter

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Yankees
Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

There have been some serious skill progressions for Anthony Volpe, who has gotten off to a hot start with a 208 wRC+ and .444 OBP through his first 11 games. In his second season as a big leaguer, his maturation has been immediate, and it seems that the organization has some confidence that his early strides can stick. Spring Training was an instant early sign of things to come, as he hit .314 with a 124 wRC+ through 18 games there, leading off plenty of times to get experience as a table-setter.

Some of the changes have come with a lower Chase Rate (22.6%) and Whiff Rate (12.2%), and the elite ability to make contact gives him a much larger room for error than most hitters. Making plenty of contact means limiting the at-bats in which you’re striking out and having a zero-percent chance of reaching base. A more patient approach can fit a contact-heavy profile since it means he can still command the zone on two strikes, and there are multiple cases this season where he’s had tough at-bats and turned them into hits or walks.

As part of this change, the Yankees are moving Gleyber Torres down to the sixth spot, and this is a sign of how deep the Yankees lineup is right now.

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
Sep 30, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) hits an RBI single against the Kansas City Royals during the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

While he didn’t hit much, Torres still saw more pitches than any other hitter in the American League, and that’s something that could benefit Anthony Volpe a lot more. He’s a better baserunner due to his natural speed tool, while Gleyber Torres is the better swinger of the bat with his excellent balance of power, patience, and contact. If the Yankees are able to convert Anthony Volpe into a permanent leadoff hitter, that could do wonders for their lineup construction, as they’ve struggled to get production from that spot of the lineup in recent years.

In 2023, the Yankees had the fourth-worst OBP (.306) and fifth-worst OPS (.680) from their leadoff hitters, and with DJ LeMahieu injured, this is a chance for Volpe to reverse those trends. It’s unclear if he’d remain the leadoff hitter when the two-time batting champion returns, but with his age and the way Anthony Volpe has played, there’s a chance that he steals that job for the foreseeable future. Giving pitchers another concern with Juan Soto and Aaron Judge at the plate is part of this equation as well, as the newfound speed they’d have from their leadoff hitter can change things.

The threat to steal can create chaos, and we’ve seen the Yankees do an excellent job early on of using speed to their advantage. They currently rank fourth in Baserunning Run-Value (+1), mostly coming on how efficient they are when they advance a base, and Anthony Volpe could further their baserunning value by having an open lane to swipe second base early into a contest. It’ll be fun to see how this pans out, but this change could pay off big time if Anthony Volpe performs.

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